You know how it is. You look back at a marketing idea that worked really well, and all of a sudden, success seems so obvious.
“No wonder that worked,” you say. “It was a great idea.”
Often, it seems like one idea, but it really has a few moving parts.
It’s easy to think that your business is limited to HVAC sales products: thermostats, furnaces, air filters or other HVAC construction equipment. I mean, that’s what you install, and that’s why they get the invoice, right?
None of those differentiate you from your competitors, and in a customer’s mind, they don’t even differentiate from the “big boxes.”
Your product is your service and relationship. You “sell” customers your confidence and competence in exchange for making their “pain” disappear. That doesn’t come in a box, and it’s not in any aisle — I checked. It comes from the way you listen, how you understand their problems, present the solution and package it with guarantees. Your follow up cements the relationship and jogs referrals.
No follow-up? No relationship.
Superior customer service is a differentiating marketing benefit. Lots of contractors either “hide” their uniqueness or fail to remind customers of their value. Bad idea. We also critique a few thousand ads a year here, and it’s amazing how many contractors offer 24-hour service, repair guarantees, appointment guarantees and a ton of “differentiators,” but say very little about them.
People want a low-risk, high-reward service experience, but how are they to know you offer it if you don’t tell them?
Your marketing can give reassurances to potential customers about your commitment to service, so that the customer knows that it’s OK to call.
Customer service starts with the first contact, usually during the incoming call. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a phone operator is unimportant. The timeliness, friendliness, courtesy and professionalism displayed there can be the difference between a hang up and the beginning of a long-term customer relationship.
We make about 6,000 calls to HVAC sales contractors each year, none of which are cold calls. They’re usually suggested by the owner or company president, and yet, we are often astonished at the lack of professionalism and sheer rudeness we encounter. Make a staged call to your own company sometime. It can be an eye-opener.
Good customer service doesn’t end when the representative hangs up the phone. Follow the scheduling with an email or phoned appointment reminder and another to say the HVAC construction technician’s on the way.
By far, your best marketing opportunity on a service call is to generate referrals, by which satisfied customers do your marketing for you. After a visit, the customer should receive letters, each designed to keep them tied to you. These include handwritten thank-you notes and postcards, referral requests and suggestions for online reviews.
Online reviews on sites such as Yelp.com can be the life or death of your company’s image. If you receive a negative review for poor customer service, it casts a shadow over your business that’s nearly impossible to remove. Remember to respond to any issues or complaints online in a polite and respectful way. This will make you look better and allow you to share your side of the story.
Make yourself unique and memorable, helping customers separate you from “everyone else” who just blends in. When you put these tools in place, customer acceptance and appreciation will seem very obvious, and soon enough, you’ll be looking back and saying, “No wonder that worked. It was a great idea.”
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a national marketing firm for contractors. Snips readers can get a free report, “Five Things That Drive Your Customers Crazy,” by emailing to freeSNIPSstuff@hudsonink.com. You can also call Hudson, Ink at (800) 489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.